Should’ve Been Sooner: Demon Eye, Leave the Light

Posted in Reviews on August 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

“Better late than never,” or so the adage goes. If you’ve ever read more than two sentences on this site, chances are you’ve witnessed me complaining about being perpetually short on time, unable to fit in everything that I want to, etc. That’s been the case for at least the last four years. I’m always working at a deficit, and it’s usually just a question of whether or not I’m able to live with the level of behind that I am. In the case of Demon Eye‘s Leave the Light, I simply can’t take it anymore.

Released back in January on Soulseller Records, the debut long-player from the Raleigh, North Carolina, witch-rocking four-piece has haunted me — daily — as it has sat on the stack waiting to be reviewed, its righteously devilized jewel case cover burned into my consciousness no less than the cowbell-stomped chorus of “Adversary,” just one of the album’s 11 memorable exaltations of the left hand path. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Erik Sugg, lead guitarist Larry Burlison, bassist/vocalist Paul Walz and drummer/vocalist Bill Eagen, Demon Eye owe much to early Pentagram‘s vaguely Luciferian swing and Sugg‘s touches of Eric Wagner influence go far in “Edge of the Knife” and the brooding “Fires of Abalam,” but they’re distinguished by proto-thrash riffing and ultimately wind up with an energetic, somewhat mystical concoction not entirely dissimilar in concept from Texas’ Venomous Maximus, though the
execution of Leave the Light works with its own blend.

To wit, opener “Hecate”‘s resonant hook and tradeoff of chugging and winding riffs and slower Motörhead spellcasting sets the stage for varied invocations of classic metal, but nowhere on Leave the Light do Demon Eye lose their heavy rock tonality or vibe. “Shades of Black” owes more to Thin Lizzy than Slayer, and the subsequent “Secret Sect” has a natural enough sound to namecheck Kadavar or Graveyard in terms of its ’70s loyalism. Side B branches out but remains catchy, with the shorter “Witch’s Blood” (2:47) setting up a moodier run with “Fires of Abalam” referencing Pentagram‘s “When the Screams Come” and delivering the band’s eponymous line while pulling back on the thrust to make “Devil Knows the Truth” sound even more motion-based, dueling leads just past the halfway point making it all the more a standout en route to “The Banishing,” which turns around the lyrical perspective to give Lucifer himself a chance to speak (anyone remember when Type O Negative did that for Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath?”) and, before its 4:35 are done, earns a bit of sympathy for the devil to go with the classic heavy rock swagger, like Scorpions when they knew what was up.

demon eye leave the lightThe single-mindedness of a 46-minute full-length where just about every song is in one way or another about hellishness and ghouls and Satan and whatnot becomes a factor by the time Demon Eye get down to the closing duo of “From Beyond” and “Silent One” — both choice riffs, the latter locking into a groove every bit worthy to end the record — but what ultimately saves Leave the Light from monotony are the sonic shifts between the songs and the flow that the CD enacts as it plays out. It’s worth noting that, as their first outing, Leave the Light is remarkably consistent in the quality of its songcraft, and as six of these cuts — “Hecate,” “Witch’s Blood,” “Shades of Black,” “Fires of Abalam,” “Devil Knows the Truth” and “Silent One,” in that order — also appeared as Demon Eye‘s 2013 self-released debut EP, Shades of Black (a tape also came out through Sarlacc Productions), the band obviously knows a good thing when they hear it. Reusing one or two tracks from a first EP to first LP isn’t uncommon, but to incorporate all of them — and more importantly, to be right in doing so — shows a confidence in their approach that serves the band well as the other songs work their way between.

It really has been months that Leave the Light has worn on my mind, and though I feel a bit like writing this review is an exorcism, the songwriting here and the cohesiveness of Demon Eye in what’s still their early going (they got together in 2012) stand as testament to the fact that this won’t be the last time we hear from them. Next time around, I’ll be ready.

Demon Eye, Leave the Light (2014)

Demon Eye on Thee Facebooks

Demon Eye on Bandcamp

Soulseller Records

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On the Radar: Lewis and the Strange Magics, Demo

Posted in On the Radar on August 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Spanish cult rockers Lewis and the Strange Magics have worked fast. In late June, the Barcelona garage doomers released their debut demo, aptly-titled Demo, with an initial three songs available digitally for those who might have the inclination to check them out. Less than two months later, the band — whose lineup remains a mystery and of whom no photos have surfaced — signed a deal with Soulseller Records to release their first album, on which they’ve already begun work. The Demo itself moves with similar efficiency. Barely 90 seconds have passed into opener “How to be You” before Satan is invoked in a catchy chorus reminiscent of Ghost for its harmonies and The Devil’s Blood for its psychedelic swirl, but rougher in its production than either. Both of those bands owed a considerable debt to ’70s cultistry, and Lewis and the Strange Magics do likewise – see CovenSalem MassBlack Widow, etc. — but a sense of theatricality comes through the subsequent “Cloudy Grey Cube” (also featured in July’s podcast), and it’s more in line with classic Alice Cooper Band than anything so specifically devilish.

There also seems to be a different vocalist on the second of Demo‘s three cuts from that on “How to be You” — the opener also being the longest inclusion; immediate points — but I could be way off on that, and I suppose the nebulous unknown is part of what makes Lewis and the Strange Magics an engaging listen. So far as I know, they’ve done no shows, and while the elephant in the room stylistically here is unquestionably Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, who rode similar garage mystique all the way to an opening slot for Black Sabbath and an impending major market US tour, Lewis and the Strange Magics aren’t so singular in their influence as the construction of their moniker might have you believe. Tonally, Lewis and company delve into vintage-isms, and there are at least two guitars on “Cloudy Grey Cube,” though that could just as easily be tape layering in the solo section before a return to the classic stoner swing of the verse riff that finishes out.

“Golden Threads” rounds out in spooky proto-metal form, a late ’60s Halloween psychedelia persisting in echoing soul vocals and a jangly but threatening intro/chorus riff, a dead giveaway of some underlying metallic influence. The closer opens up to a doomly groove, but never loses its swing, and deftly returns to its verse and instrumental chorus to close the quick 15-minute romp with a hint at darker explorations to come. Whoever they are, Lewis and the Strange Magics have arrived with a strong sense of what they’re looking to accomplish aesthetically, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to find their Soulseller debut a more complex, individualized effort than Demo, the three tracks included here make it easy to understand what all the hubbub is about, trading as they do in a fresh sound and giving another spin on what’s quickly becoming an established subgenre in its own right with garage-influenced doom rock. One way or another, expect to hear more about Lewis and the Strange Magics as they approach their debut proper, since buzz of this sort rarely disappears overnight.

Lewis and the Strange Magics, Demo (2014)

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

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Tombstones Touring Europe with Widows Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

After hitting the UK in collusion with Widows last October (also with Wizard Fight on board for the run), Norwegian doomers Tombstones will once more hit the road alongside the Britsh outfit. Tombstones are touring in support of their fourth album, Red Skies and Dead Eyes (review here), on Soulseller Records, and the current stint is slated to hit the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Germany starting on Feb. 1.

The PR wire has it like this:

Tombstones / Widows – European Tour, February 2014

In the first week of February, Eclipse Productions brings you Northern Doom, set to captivate the European continent. The ultra-heavy Norwegian three-piece TOMBSTONES team up with UK-groovers WIDOWS for a 7-day trail, visiting The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Germany.

TOMBSTONES’ highly acclaimed album “Red Skies and Dead Eyes” was released in October by Soulseller Records, and has featured in many end-of -year lists and has received rave reviews from web- and fanzines throughout the world, including the likes of Terrorizer, Visions Magazine and Metal Hammer. In 2013 the band blew minds with three bludgeoning sets at Desertfest in London, found themselves supporting bands such as Clutch and Ufomammut, and are now ready to once again bring their crushing live act across Europe. TOMBSTONES can be described as the bastard child conceived by a filthy threesome with Sleep, Melvins and Bongripper.

Nottingham-based WIDOWS play music you can raise a beer and swing a fist to and they do it hard fast and loud, with bone crushing grooves and undeniable swagger!Influenced by the likes of Down, Kyuss, and Clutch, WIDOWS have spent the three years since the release of their debut EP (2010’s Raise the Monolith) building up an ever more impressive live set as they chewed up, spat out, and pounded venue after venue into submission, adding weight to their sets with regular new tracks and building the collection of songs that would later become their debut full length CD, Death Valley Duchess.

TOMBSTONES - Tourdates 2014
01.02.2014 - tba. - Gouda/Leiden – Netherlands
02.02.2014 - AMC – Antwerpen – Belgium
04.02.2014 - Le Glazart – Paris – France
05.02.2014 - L’Ecurie – Geneva – Switzerland
06.02.2014 - Zentralcafe (K4) – Nürnberg – Germany
07.02.2014 - Little Devil - Tilburg - Netherlands
08.02.2014 - Immerhin – Würzburg - Germany

https://www.facebook.com/events/1405057259741119/
https://www.facebook.com/tombstonesoslo
http://www.soulsellerrecords.com/

Tombstones, “Red Skies and Dead Eyes” official video

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One Inch Giant European Tour Starts Tonight

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

This evening — it’s probably already in progress, what with the hours they’re ahead; impossible to keep up — Gothenburg heavy rockers One Inch Giant will kick off their European tour in Copenhagen. The four-piece are out supporting the April 2013 release of their second full-length, The Great White Beyond, on Soulseller Records, and they’ll hit up a swath of European countries over the next nine days, winding up in Hungary after crossing borders back and forth between it, Germany and the Netherlands. Some pretty crazy routing on paper, but I’m sure it makes more sense once you’re actually making those drives. Or maybe not. I was never much for cartography.

One Inch Giant sent along word of the tour and dates for anyone who happens to be in that part of the world:

Greetings fellow rockers! Our European tour is closing in and we’re really stoked about getting out on the road, playing you songs from our new record!

This time we’ll pay Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Austria a visit.

These are the dates :

21 Nov (thu) – KB18 – Copenhagen, Denmark
22 Nov (fri) – Rathausbunker – Kiel, Germany
23 Nov (sat) – Café Mukkes – Leeuwarden, Netherlands
24 Nov (sun) – Gasolina – Waregem, Belgium
25 Nov (mon) – The Last Waterhole – Amsterdam, Netherlands
26 Nov (tue) – Subway to Peter – Chemnitz, Germany
27 Nov (wed) – R33 – Budapest, Hungary
28 Nov (thu) – Kilele Music Café – Kecskemét, Hungary
29 Nov (fri) – Roter Gugl – Hartberg, Austria
30 Nov (sat) – Veszprém, Hungary

https://www.facebook.com/oneinchgiant/
http://oneinchgiant.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soulsellerrecords.com/

One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (2013)

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Tombstones, Red Skies and Dead Eyes: Fields under a Black Moon

Posted in Reviews on November 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Norwegian trio Tombstones have released four albums in the last four years. Red Skies and Dead Eyes, on Soulseller Records, is the latest of them, and if the band works quickly, take it as a sign they also know what they’re doing. The six songs on their recorded-live fourth long-player clock in at a vinyl-ready 44 minutes, and whether it’s the Sleep-style thud of opener “Black Moon” or the later divergence into post-Electric Wizard terror-groove in “The Other Eye,” the Oslo-based three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Bjørn-Viggo Godtland, bassist/vocalist Ole Christian Helstad and drummer Jørn Inge Woldmo always seem to keep in mind a steady injection of individuality into the material. Part of that comes through the cave echo on Godtland and Helstad‘s vocals, which at times seem like just another rhythmic element at work to follow the riff — not a complaint; the riffs are worth following — but moreover, it’s about the atmosphere of Red Skies and Dead Eyes, which is full of darkened stoner metal idolatry that never quite veers completely into cult rock. It knows where that line is though and seems to enjoy straddling it, though when it comes to a song like “King of Daze,” Tombstones seem more preoccupied with the chugging itself than mystical posturing — true riff worship. But for the 10-minute “Obstfelder” and the 7:20 title-track, songs hover somewhere between six and a half and seven minutes long, which is roughly consistent if a little shorter on average than the cuts on 2012′s Year of the Burial, which set Tombstones to touring Europe and found them performing at Desertfest in London this spring, and the sampled wind that starts “Black Moon” both calls to mind YOB‘s “Burning the Altar” and sets the album to a rumble that continues throughout the rest of its course, the tones being consistent and large but malleable to the various moods in which the band puts them to use.

One could argue Red Skies and Dead Eyes is structured to work in vinyl sides — at very least it splits about even with three songs in each half — but it works well as a CD, whereby the shift into darker atmospherics on the later tracks seems more linear and gradual. When it comes to “Black Moon” and “King of Daze,” the focus is pretty clearly on riffing. Godtland leads with low, full fuzz, and Helstad‘s bass enhances the already mud-covered push while Woldmo offers a march on his snare. They may be looking unto the rays of the new stoner sun rising, but they’re doing so from their own angle, and though Gotland‘s vocals are somewhat buried — as they should be for this kind of tone-minded fare — when Helstad joins in, a dynamic is enacted that undercuts some of the superficial simplicity of what’s basically a shouting approach. Further, with about a minute left in “Black Moon,” they pull a quick instrumental turn into a different riff and tempo, and though there’s almost a hiccup at that point, it speaks to the instrumental chemistry the trio have developed over the course of their time together. A light touch of insistent High on Fire-style push at the start of “King of Daze” opens wide to one of the album’s most engaging grooves, and is in turn driven headfirst into a slowdown to more massive riffing and crashing, Woldmo keeping steady on what sounds like a considerably proportioned ride until the pace picks up again somewhat and the verse starts. Helstad takes the fore on vocals near the halfway point with Godtland joining shortly, and they cycle through again, this time skipping the slowdown to go right back into another verse that enacts a lumber all its own, ending big, ending faster than one might expect, and leading to the from-the-ground-up build of “Obstfelder,” which rounds out the first half of Red Skies and Dead Eyes with a few lead lines from Godtland (Billy Anderson, who’s also credited with additional engineering, is listed as having contributed “additional bending and feedback,” perhaps here, along with Petter Svee, who engineered and mixed in cooperation with the band), something largely avoided on the first two tracks.

Read more »

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Tombstones Announce UK Tour Dates with Widows and Wizard Fight

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Coinciding with the slated release of their fourth album, Red Skies and Dead Eyes, Oslo-based stoner doomers Tombstones will head to the UK and link up with Widows and Wizard Fight for a string of shows. Red Skies and Dead Eyes is set for release on Soulseller Records and follows on the heels of last year’s Year of the Burial, which you can hear in full under the dates, links and info below.

Told you:

FAT Wizard Promo Presents SONIC SEA MONSTER ROAD TOUR PART I

10/10 Heretic Promotions Presents Tombstones / Widows / Wizard Fight / Yamakunt at Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham
11/10 Tombstones / Widows / Wizard Fight / Black Fathoms at The Old Angel, Nottingham
12/10 When planets collide Presents Tombstones / Widows / Meadows / War Wolf / Prosperina / Wizard Fight / Burden of the Noose /March of the Desert at the Brixton Windmill, London
13/10 Tombstones / Widows / Wizard Fight at the Tubman, Hastings FREE ENTRY
https://www.facebook.com/events/494378830647608/

TOMBSTONES
The ultra-heavy Norwegian doom three-piece are coming back to tour the UK after their 2 mind blowing sets at this years Desertfest.
https://www.facebook.com/tombstonesoslo

WIDOWS
Formed in 2008 in the troubled UK town of Nottingham,
WIDOWS play music you can raise a beer and swing a fist to
and they do it hard fast and loud, with bone crushing grooves and undeniable swagger!

Influenced by the likes of Down, Kyuss, and Clutch, WIDOWS have spent the two years since the release of their debut EP (2010’s Raise the Monolith) building up an ever more impressive live set as they chewed up, spat out, and
pounded venue after venue into submission, adding weight to their sets with regular new tracks and building the collection of songs that would later become
their debut full length CD, Death Valley Duchess.
https://www.facebook.com/widows666

WIZARD FIGHT
Formed in 2012 by Luke Bolton (ROTS) and former Steak drummer Dan Kinsey, they set out as a two piece to play insanely sludgey filth with a good measure of Doom and a wee bit of Stoner groove. Early 2013 see the addition of Dave on bass adding the much needed earth shaking guts needed to add to the Wizard Fight sound. Work is ongoing writing material and we will be coming to a shithole near you soon! WATCH THIS SPACE DEBUT ALBUM COMING OVER YOU SOON!
You can get a FREE DOWNLOAD of our first release ‘The Beast Lives (Demo)’ at http://wizardfight.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Wizardfightuk

Tombstones, Year of the Burial (2012)

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Groan Join Lineup for London Desertfest 2013

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Similar to being grateful for having the opportunity to catch bands like Alunah, Grifter and Trippy Wicked at last year’s Desertfest in London, I’m excited at the chance to see Groan on stage. Having so thoroughly nerded out over their metallicized 2012 offering, The Divine Right of Kings (review here), it should be fun to see them do some of that material live, and all the more interesting now that they have two guitars. Seems like they can never quite keep still. All the better for the stage show.

Here’s the announcement, cruelly snatched from the Desertfest website:

Hear the Groan at Desertfest

Here at DesertFest HQ we’ve been doing some experiments. We ain’t messing around here – there are Bunsen burners, SPSS datasets and white lab coats lying around all over the place! So what have we learned from this cactus-tax funded piece of analysis? Well, during our careful dissection of a certain infamous British hard rock band, we have successfully proven the hypothesis that Groan are, in fact, 67% TRUE DOOM.

So what does this mean for the remaining 33% I hear you exclaim? Well, you can fill out the rest of that pie-chart with righteous segments of HARD rock, THUNDER BOOGIE heavy metal, INSANE trouser choices and a significant quantity of FACIAL hair. Groan were formed roughly around 1967 by guitarist The Riff Wizard who then met lead singer Lord Mazzereth in a field of frolicking, opium-fuelled virgin pagans; such fields as I’m told were in abundance at that time. Soon however the initial line-up became a forgotten myth confined to Celtic folklore and the rarest of parchment inscriptions sealed in a series of long lost mountain caves. Yet in 2009, Groan were resurrected and rose like a phoenix silhouetted by several glow-sticks from their tomb of rock. Lord Mazzereth, who some say is older than Jesus, had forgotten all of the old hymns, but a new line-up of devout worshippers to the altar of the noble ryffe were nonetheless recruited and they wrote some new, better gospels together in haste. Now rounded out as a well-drilled five-piece with the addition of former Invasion and Pettybone drummer Zel Kaute, plus Trippy Wicked drummer Chris West and Mike Pilat (ex-Ocean Collective) on guitars joining frontman Mazzereth and corduroy comedian Leigh Jones on bass, the time to Groan is now!

Here to rock your life out of control with the likes of ‘Witchy Woman’, ‘Throne of Weed’ and ‘Gods of Fire’, this is one party train of David Coverdale fanatics, playing the best riffs that Sabbath threw away, that you’d be a fool to miss. A FOOL I TELL YOU! And if that’s not enough for you, the last time I saw this band, they were all dressed as bananas. Be there, or be somewhere sensible.

Words by Pete Green.

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One Inch Giant Stream Track from New Album The Great White Beyond

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Renewing their penchant for strong, accessible hooks and heavy rocking grooves, Swedish single-guitar four-piece One Inch Giant will release their Soulseller Records debut full-length, titled The Great White Beyond, on April 19 in Europe. The long-player follows the band’s 2011 Malva EP (short review here), which established a fuzz rock charm offset by touches of a more metallic influence.

Should be  interesting to hear how that balance might develop over the course of The Great White Beyond, and since the EP was enough to bring One Inch Giant over to the States for a run of shows (reviews here and here), I’m excited to see how the band works to get their name out for their first record. They’ve just released the first track from the album in the form of the catchy “Mountains Will Erode,” and seem to be gearing up for good things to come.

Here’s the song and a blurb grabbed from the label confirming the release date for the album:

Here’s a new track from One Inch Giant’s upcoming album “the Great White Beyond”, prepare for a riff-driven progressive metal journey! Now listen to “Mountains Will Erode,” out on April 19th across Europe!

Tracklist:
1. The Sea Opened Up
2. Mountains Will Erode
3. Malva
4. Jiraya
5. Only Scorn Remains
6. Tell Meteor From Star
7. The Years of Mist
8. Awaiting the Wave
9. My Unshaped Form
10. A Fear Aflame
11. The Great White Beyond

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Groan Post Video for “Gods of Fire” from The Divine Right of Kings

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Someday I’m gonna see this band…

There’s a lot of footage swiped from a lot of places that shows up in the new Groan video, for the ultra-catchy “Gods of Fire” from their The Divine Right of Kings sophomore full-length (review here), including some out of one of the Star Trek movies and the classic Chris Holmes interview from Decline of Western Civilization Pt. 2: The Metal Years, but Groan also manage to work in some snitched from classic ’70s horror, as they have in the past. Wherever they’ve grown from their roots, those roots are still here.

And as you’ll see in the clip, so is the band’s palpable sense of charm. Touting their new(est) slogan marking them as “67% true doom,” they unleash a video for “Gods of Fire” that once you’ve started you can’t help but finish. To wit:

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audiObelisk: Bloody Hammers Stream “Souls on Fire” from Self-Titled Debut LP

Posted in audiObelisk on November 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster


With goats on their brains and fuzz in their pedals, North Carolinian witch rocking foursome Bloody Hammers issued their self-titled debut on vinyl just this past Friday, Nov. 23. Soulseller Records, whose capable hands recently steered Groan‘s The Divine Right of Kings toward the public, provided their stamp of association, and the band, who previously sold out the CD version and all US-based LPs, once more rode their undeniable hooks to devil-worshiping glory.

Wavy logo font? Penta-goat head? Purple and black? They’ve got all the superficial trappings of post-Electric Wizard cult metal, and some of their fuzz bears that out, but the overarching thickness of “The Last Legion of Sorrow” and the nigh-on-gothic drama in bassist Anders Manga‘s vocals reminds more of an American-styled Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, andBloody Hammers’ pop sensibilities seal the deal in that regard. Their debut strikes an odd balance, not quite placed in one camp or another, and as the penultimate track, “Souls on Fire” most excellently shows their roundabout route to individuality.

A Sabbathian cadence (think “Under the Sun” in the verse) and mounting tension of drum stomp give way to organ-led melodic sweetness, the vocals high in the mix and slightly blown out, but winding up with swagger enough to deliver the rousing titular chorus. Aside from being among Bloody Hammers‘ most memorable cuts, “Souls on Fire” is also among the band’s best blends of the varying sides of their sound. It’s my pleasure to be able to stream the song today, and you’ll find it on the player below, followed by links to where you can get the album.

Please enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Bloody HammersBloody Hammers is available now on Soulseller Records. For more info, check out the Bloody Hammers Bandcamp or their page on Thee Facebooks.

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UK Special — Groan, The Divine Right of Kings: When in Doubt, Rock it Out

Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Groan’s second full-length, The Divine Right of Kings barely gives you a second to think before it gets its hooks in you. The album, boasting artwork by W. Ralph Walters and following a split with Finnish proto-doomers Vinum Sabbatum (review here) and their 2010 debut, The Sleeping Wizard (review here), also marks their first outing on Soulseller Records, opening with an immediate rush of three songs that run one into the next While I’m a fan of the band and have been since that debut – so I’m freely willing to admit that’s the perspective from which I’m writing – the momentum comes on quick and speaks for itself. Opener “Weeping Jesus” aligns the UK four-piece to both ‘70s and ‘90s-style doom ‘n’ roll quirk, and the ensuing “Sacrificial Virgins” sets the tone for much of the quality songwriting to follow, hooky choruses delivered with lighthearted arrogance by Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen – the last holdout in the band as regards adopted stage names, as both guitarist Dan Wainwright and bassist Leigh Jones have dropped theirs and newly recruited drummer Chris West (also Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight and Stubb) never had one – but it’s really not until the extended introduction of the third track, “Magic Man,” that Mazzereth really lays down the ethic at the heart of what Groan does. In preaching spoken word echoes atop tension-creating guitar feedback, he states:

Some days the bad, some days unworthy people, unrighteous business and the conventional grind brings you down. But you’re wise — you’re clever — you know how to deal with this bad situation. I’m talking about reaching for the Sabbath, the DC, the Priest. I’m talking about reaching for the Halen, the Quo, the Creedence. You fight the world with some tasty Stooges. You make your body move with some Grand Funk, some Foghat. These timeless motherfuckers bring forth the power that enables you to deal with it, to get off your ass and fight back. Hell, they may even inspire you to form a shitty rock and roll band. Never forget the healing power of rock. Never forget the crucial truth they bring. Friends, to you, I say this: When in doubt, rock it out.

From there, West taps his snare and they launch full-speed into “Magic Man,” one of The Divine Right of Kings’ best and most swaggering cuts, but more than that, it’s how much the mentality of the above defines the course of the album that stands Groan out from their peers. There are bands who would say the above and offer some ironic pose-out behind it. Hearing Groan as they present themselves on their second album, I totally believe they listen to Foghat. While drunk. Possibly with their shirts off, weather permitting.

It’s the ability to skirt the line between tongue-in-cheek chicanery and sincere appreciation for classic heavy rock, classic heavy metal and modern doom and stoner riffing that serves as the difference between Groan and any ironic shitbag act you’d want to put next to them. Groan means it. The Divine Right of Kings touches almost immediately on British horror cinema atmospheres in the spoken lyrics of “Weeping Jesus,” which has doomed plod behind it but still keeps a relatively accessible pace musically, and “Sacrificial Virgins” is as much about the up and down nod of its riff as it is the titular virgins, Jones and West proving a formidable rhythm section quickly while they underscore the perfectly-paced groove. Mazzereth urges the listener to “get down” and “feel the doom” before Wainwright takes a few measures of a solo and either a sample or more spoken vocals – they’re murky, so it’s kind of hard to tell – round out the track, leading directly into the above-noted intro to “Magic Man” and the song that follows, which is nothing if not the payoff the first two tracks built toward. Through these three tracks – which take only about 10 of the album’s total 39 minutes – Groan barely give the listener time to catch their breath or process what they’re hearing, such is the demented ADD mentality of them. Emerging on the other side of “Sacrificial Virgins,” one almost remembers the chorus in spite of the song, its start-stop cadence reminiscent of Cathedral at their most unabashedly rocking. “Magic Man” is made all the more a landmark both by its motoring musical and lyrical brashness, but also because it leads to the first genuine stop on The Divine Right of Kings, the track ending cold to precede the slowdown to come in “Dissolution.” Prior to, “Magic Man”’s groove is all punkish stoner, West’s drums providing critical engine to Wainwright’s leads as a brief slowdown in the second half picks up for a final run through the chorus.

In comparison, “Dissolution” is infinitely more doomed. The tempo is cut to a slower groove, and the atmosphere is darker in the guitar, a semi-choral opening giving the march some melodic context in the intro, though by the chorus, it’s Mazzereth who seems to be all over it, unwilling to relinquish some of the energy that “Magic Man” pushed forward. He’s mixed high and echoing, but that only adds to the classic metal vibe of the track, which is maintained despite a modern-sounding production, handled by the band themselves with a mastering job by West. Still, as the chorus comes back in the final slowdown Mazzereth moves further back in the mix to let the chants through, announcing that “our god is dead,” and while it’s clear the band are aware of their methods and the atmospheres they’re trying to concoct, it’s also a lot of fun to listen, that slowdown only serving to highlight the point that you never quite know where Groan are headed until they get there. That remains true even as The Divine Right of Kings moves into its next phase, “Dissolution” setting the tone for more straightforward presentation of the band’s balance between doom and heavy rock. The lighthearted feel is maintained – even in its darkest moments, as with the ending of “Dissolution,” Groan can’t help but be a good time – but there’s a shift in momentum. “Dissolution” and the following “Atomic Prophets” and “Gods of Fire” play into each other less than did the opening salvo, each song coming to its own end without bleeding directly into the next. It’s a shift in vibe to match the sonic turn between “Magic Man” and “Dissolution,” but what remains consistent is the level of songwriting as “Atomic Prophets” gets underway, West’s kick setting the pace soon to be picked up by the whole band while Mazzereth hangs back a bit before unleashing the first verse. For all intents and purposes, “Atomic Prophets” is the stoner rock to stand up to “Dissolution”’s doom, but there aren’t any feelings of inconsistency going from one to the next – the first three tracks having done well to set up an open expectation.

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Groan Post Trailer for The Divine Right of Kings, Announce Release-Week Tour

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ever the troublemakers, British stoner specialists Groan have announced a few lives dates around the release of their new album, The Divine Right of Kings. The four-piece will unleash the new album, featuring alternate-universe future classics like “How Black was Our Sabbath” and “Let’s Have a Pint at the Crooked Cock,” on Oct. 26 through Soulseller Records, and joining them for the shows will be none other than Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight.

Here are the dates, courtesy of the band:

Tue 23rd Oct Oxford, The Wheatsheaf (support TBC)
Wed 24th Oct Manchester, The Bay Horse (w/Arke)
Thu 25th Oct Sunderland, Venue TBC (w/Witch Charmer + Ashes of Iron)
Sat 27th Oct London, The Black Heart (w/Valve, Crumbling Ghost, Dead Existence)

And to give a first look at the chicanery on tap for The Divine Right of Kings, Groan put together the following album trailer, which I’m happy to host for your perusal. Dig it and then go back to the start and dig it again:

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Groan Make the Magic Happen

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

When I reviewed Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, a large part of the discussion centered around the departure of vocalist Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen and drummer Steve “Thor’s Hammer” Burnett. Well, as the band’s new video for the song “Magic Man” from their forthcoming The Divine Right of Kings album shows, Mazzereth is back in the band and they’ve also joined forces with the increasingly-ubiquitous Christopher West to fill the drummer slot. You might recognize West from the recently-reviewed Stubb or Trippy Wicked, who are also expected to have a new record out this year. Busy busy.

Dig the righteous rawness below, and don’t be surprised when the room starts spinning. That’s kind of Groan‘s thing:

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